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Topic: Darker fantasy/sci-fi anyone?

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Subject: Darker fantasy/sci-fi anyone?
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 11:01 AM ET
Member Since: 8/2/2010
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Hello All!

This is my first post on PBS and I'm very glad to be part of such a cool community. I am looking for some new authors/series to start reading soon and I was wondering if I could get some help from the community. Some of my favorite authors are Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), and Dan Abnett (Eisenhorn).

What I'm looking for specifically is some fantasy or sci-fi that has more dynamic characters that have to come to terms with ugly truths or aspects of themselves that they loathe. For instance, if anyone has read the Eisenhorn series, the main protagonist delves into creepier and creepier magic as the story unfolds. He cautiously uses his new found power for greater good, but the potential of madness and damnation is an ever-present threat. Another example is for instance Rand Al'Thor in the Wheel of Time, by using the one power he could go mad and at times he seems to flirt with the madness.

I find those sort of themes very appealing to read about in fantasy/sci-fi and they make a character so much more dynamic. If anyone has some suggestions about books or series that have such protagonists I would love to have your input!


Date Posted: 12/2/2010 11:26 AM ET
Member Since: 3/22/2007
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These are all pretty dark and gave me food for thought....

Daughter of the Blood (Black Jewels, Bk 1)

Heir to the Shadows (Black Jewels, Bk 2)

Queen of the Darkness (Black Jewels, Bk 3

Author: Anne Bishop


The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, Bk 1)

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Bk 2)

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, Bk 3)

Author: Suzanne Collins


Feed (Newsflesh, Bk 1)

Author: Mira Grant



Author: Kit Whitfield

If you are looking for protagonists that are dealing with dark truths about themselves, then Benighted is a good choice.  This book stayed with me for a long time after I read it.  It's a book that has a lot of parallels to our own world and really made me think.  Not the typical werewolf book at all.

Last Edited on: 12/2/10 11:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 12:08 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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From what I've heard, George Alec Effinger's The Audran Sequence might be right up your alley. I believe the major character arc is one of descent into villainhood. The first book is When Gravity Fails, though I think the second and third books are darker than that one. (And be warned, there was supposed to be a fourth, but Effinger died young.)

Date Posted: 12/2/2010 12:59 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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The protagonist's younger brother in The Eyes of the Dragon (Stephen King) suffers from a great deal of self loathing. He may not be the main character but it does drive the entire plot.

I don't know if I really "recommend" it, but Thomas Covenant has to get through some serious self loathing to come to power. Or something like that. I didn't finish Lord Foul's Bane (Stephen R. Donaldson) because I couldn't stand any more of his wallowing in self pity. Some people really enjoy this series, though.

I haven't read any of the series yet, but Elric of Melnibone supposedly doesn't approve of the culture he's the king of. And he's got a wicked sword that works for him as well as against him. It starts with Weird of the White Wolf (Michael Moorcock).

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Oldie but goodie, and in the public domain! http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/SteJekl.html

Maybe it's not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing "dark", but Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. LeGuin) has a tendency to magically meddle with things he shouldn't, just because he can. And he pays for it.

I found the Chronicles of Chrestomanci (Diana Wynne Jones) to be very dark in a very subtle way. The second story is the darker one, and you could probably read that one first if you wanted to. The mermaids...*shudder*

Ronda (RONDA) - ,
Date Posted: 12/2/2010 4:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/3/2009
Posts: 415
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way of the shadow trilogy by brent weeks  -- lots of characters dealing with their good and evil sides.  very dark.

cal & niko leandros series by rob thurman  -- cal gets to be very evil sometimes.

harry dresden series by jim butcher  -- leans toward mystery (he is a wizard detective) but does have the good vs evil in harry & many others

Date Posted: 12/2/2010 10:45 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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On the light side, Raymond Feist always has characters who are inherently evil.

(As you can see, I am unsure what you mean by "dark.")

And the best books by Dan Simmons usually deal with civilizations or even whole universes for which the prognosis is extremely bleak.

Date Posted: 12/3/2010 11:47 AM ET
Member Since: 9/15/2008
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The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  It's 100% psychology and fantasy.  Basically it's a dark spoof on Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, and a little Tolkein, but very mature.

Date Posted: 12/9/2010 11:03 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
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Well, George R.R. Martin is what comes to mind immediately.  It's a very intricate and twisted series, and very well written.  But also frustrating because the 5th book STILL has not been released (because of delays by the author) - and some sites suggest there may be a 6th and 7th as well.  Yikes, I'm going to be 100 by the time those books actually come out.

I would also recommend Sailing to Sarantium and the second one (I'm spacing on the name) by Guy Gavriel Kay - he is my favorite author so I would recommend all of his books, but this duology has a lot of plotting and intrigue in it, and the fantasy world is very well constructed.  While the main character is a pretty straightforward guy, he's not really good or evil but he does have some issues to deal with - and the characters around him have a lot of both.

And Kayla, I have The Magicians on my TBR - I can't wait to read it.

Date Posted: 3/3/2011 7:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2009
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How about the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbleiver, by Donaldson.  Wikipedia says "Stephen R. Donaldson's works are infused with psychological undertones involving an exploration of the darker side of the protagonist Thomas Covenant whilst preserving strong humanist ideals".  I, personally, found Thomas to be about the most infuriating protagonist I've ever run upon.  Never did finish the series.  Of course, I felt the same way about "Wheel of Time" series and never finished it either,

Last Edited on: 3/3/11 7:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 7
Date Posted: 3/4/2011 2:07 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,603
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Oh oh oh! I know the answer to this one! LOL Try Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. It's got dark, flawed characters to the max, and they are very accepting of themselves. Definitely not your sunshine, roses, unicorns and butterflies type of fantasy. I just finished the third in the series and thoroughly enjoyed it...but I tend to like the darker stuff.

The Blade Itself is #1

Before They are Hanged #2

Last Argument of Kings #3

They're not all that easy to come by here at PBS, I ended up buying the first and third ones but managed to get the second one here. But well worth investigating!

Also: Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series too: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Over Red Skies, and the third the upcoming Republic of Thieves.



Date Posted: 3/4/2011 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
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Kim Wilkins.  Her books for adults are all dense dark lush twisted versions of obscure fables.

Date Posted: 3/5/2011 1:06 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,406
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Susan R Matthews, the Jurisdiction series. The main character is a doctor who is employed as an "Inquisitor" on a space ship. The Inquisitor position is a torturer.

I loved those books, thought they were fascinating. I think it fits exactly your criteria of " that has more dynamic characters that have to come to terms with ugly truths or aspects of themselves that they loathe"

Here is a description of the first book, which was nominated for a Philip K. Dick award:

A promising young surgeon, Andrej Koscuisko, has come with great reluctance to study at a military orientation center adrift in black space. Against his will, he will train here to serve as a "Ship's Inquisitor"—a vocation that runs counter to his deepest moral convictions.

During his tenure, Andrej will earn the devotion of his personal slave. He will gain the grudging respect of the Station Administration. He will make a deadly enemy of his fellow student. He will learn a frightening truth about himself. And ultimately, he will be forced to sacrifice all that he holds dear.


Someone else recommended "The Way of the Shadows" trilogy, I enjoyed those as well.

And, I also read "Benighted" by Kit Whitfield, which someone else recommended. That book was strangely haunting, I thought about it for quite a while after I finished it. Very good!

Last Edited on: 3/5/11 1:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 3/18/2011 10:17 PM ET
Member Since: 10/7/2008
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I would highly recommend the Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin.  It may not be dark per se but the story is very thought provoking about society and choices people make to form them together.  Well written.  I also agree on the Guy Gavriel Kay, he has one called Last Light of the Sun and it has a complicated plot with various characters in a Viking like society.

Karen B. - ,
Subject: I second the Jim Butcher / Harry Dresden Suggestion!
Date Posted: 4/5/2011 9:09 AM ET
Member Since: 3/31/2007
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If you haven't read any of tehse books yet, GO GET THEM RIGHT NOW.  I mean it!

Date Posted: 4/6/2011 6:31 PM ET
Member Since: 8/19/2009
Posts: 1,620
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I 'third" the Dresden series.  I had a hard time getting into the Rob Thurman series (Cal Leandros), due to the writing style.  I have considered giving it another try.  Also in the same darker, but urban fantasy is Simon Green's Nightside series.  I haven't gotten the whole way through, but do like them.  One caveat though, at book 6, I am finding some of the plotting for the series (long term arc) to be predictable (at least for me).  Also, the author keeps trotting out some fairly renown myth or legend heroes and villains, while not inhibiting my enjoyment, it has at times seemed a little trite. (ok so 2 caveats)

edited for clarity


Last Edited on: 4/6/11 6:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/7/2011 12:01 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
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The Nightside series is entertaining, but not what I would call deep. It is plot driven and very light weight in terms of deep emotions. I enjoy them but I don't think they fit within what you are asking for, which seems to me, to be more character driven stories. People and monsters die left and right in these books, and the characters basically dust off their hands, think to themselves 'That's life in the Nightside" and walk away and never think about it again until they need to kill some more things 20 pages later. There is no deep thinking or examination of motives in these books. Things just happen cause 'That's life in the Nightside", KWIM?

The Dresden series is much more detailed in terms of story complexity, character development  and even character depth, (I also really enjoy these books) but I wouldn't describe Harry as a particularly anguished or tortured character, and the books are not particularly emotional.

Someone else mentioned the Cal & Nic Leandros series ... I have read those as well, and to the poster who might try them again ... I also almost gave up on them after the first 1 or 2 ... but I have read the first 5 now and I think they definitely improve a lot as you go on ... (although the style does not change much, her skill as a writer definitely improves ... so if it is the style you hate, you might not like them any better). But, Rob Thurman has improved a ton as a writer and I actually found some of her writing in the last 2 books was very emotionally evocative and satisfying. I almost cried at one part (and to me, if a writer is so good that I cry when I read the book, it is an automatic keeper ... I am not particularly sentimental as a rule, and generally don't find anything in urban fantasy to cry over).

Just my 2 cents worth.

Last Edited on: 4/7/11 12:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: A song of ice and fire
Date Posted: 4/13/2011 12:49 PM ET
Member Since: 11/23/2010
Posts: 214
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somebody else already suggested this series, but thought I would second that thought. I just finished the first 2 and they are great. I would also recommend Robin Hobb's the farseer trilogy.

Date Posted: 5/2/2011 3:33 PM ET
Member Since: 5/17/2006
Posts: 50
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What you want are Michael Moorcock's stories of the albino emperor-sorcerer-warrior Elric, arguably the quintessential dark fantasy anti-hero.  Start with the first book in the sequence, Elric of Melnibone and go from there. 

Last Edited on: 5/2/11 3:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/6/2011 11:09 PM ET
Member Since: 4/16/2008
Posts: 1,508
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What about R. A. Salvatore - Dark Elf Trilogy?

Subject: Dark subject matter
Date Posted: 5/8/2014 3:30 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2009
Posts: 11
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If you are still watching this list, I would recommend A Carnivore's Inquiry: A Novel by Sabina Murray,  0802142001.  While not actually true scifi or fantasy, it covers evolving dark subject matter within the protagonist. Kathleen/rosamundi